30 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 1027 (1996-1997)
Below the Radar Screens: Have the Sentencing Guidlines Eliminated Disparity - One Judge's Perspective

handle is hein.journals/sufflr30 and id is 1045 raw text is: SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY
Volume XXX                          Winter, 1997                            Number 4
Below The Radar Screens:
Have The Sentencing Guidelines Eliminated
Disparity? One Judge's Perspective*
Honorable Patti B. Saris'
As the tenth anniversary of the implementation of the Sentencing
Guidelines approaches, we must ask whether the sweeping reforms em-
bodied in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (the Act) have accom-
plished their primary objective: the elimination of the significant, unwar-
ranted disparity in the sentences imposed by different judges upon similar-
ly situated criminal offenders which existed under the prior system.
I take a particular interest in this subject because as a former staff coun-
sel on the Senate Judiciary Committee working for Senator Edward M.
Kennedy of Massachusetts, who joined with Senators Joseph Biden of
Delaware and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, as chief co-sponsors of
* This article is based on a speech that Judge Saris delivered on April 3, 1997 as part of the
Donahue Lecture Series. The Donahue Lecture Series is a program instituted by the Suffolk University
Law Review to commemorate the Honorable Frank J. Donahue, former faculty member, trustee, and
treasurer of Suffolk University. The Lecture Series serves as a tribute to Judge Donahue's
accomplishments in encouraging academic excellence at Suffolk University Law School. Each lecture
in the series is designed to address contemporary legal issues and expose the Suffolk University
community to outstanding authorities in various fields of law.
t Judge, United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. I would like to thank
Ms. Lisa Hay, my former law clerk, for her assistance. Ms. Hay is an associate at Foley, Hoag &
Eliot, and a member of the firm's white collar crime practice group.
1. See Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473, §§ 211-38, 98 Stat. 1987, 1987-
2040 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 18 U.S.C. and at 28 U.S.C. §§ 991-98 (1994)). The
Act had a passage date of October 12, 1984 and went into effect thirty-six months later on November
1, 1987. See 18 U.S.C. § 3551 (1994). Actually the Sentencing Reform Act was part of a much larger
piece of legislation: the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which passed the Senate 91 to 1. See S.
1762, 98th Cong., 130 CONG. REc. 1587 (1984) (reporting passage and enactment of Comprehensive
Crime Control Act of 1984); S. 668, 98th Cong., 130 CONG. REc. 1649 (1984) (recording passage of
Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 in Senate by 85-3 vote). The Joint Resolution, including the Sentenc-
ing Reform Act, passed the House of Representatives 316 to 91. See HJ. Res. 648, 98th Cong., 130
CONG. REc. 26,781, 26,837-38 (1984) (detailing debate and passage of Comprehensive Crime Control
Act of 1984 in House).

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